Penalty rate cuts look set to stay

A plan to overturn penalty rate cuts appears to have failed after Nationals MP George Christensen decided not to support the changes in the Lower House.

Labor was hoping that Christensen would support its latest attempt at reversing the FWC’s decision. But the maverick MP sided with the Coalition on a Monday afternoon motion to prioritise debate of the Bill hours after throwing Labor’s plans into doubt by saying that he could not support the amendment due to a lack of clarity over back-payments.

“I have spoken to the Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash and there is confusion over whether or not Labor’s amendment would mean small businesses in my electorate … would have to give back pay, costing them thousands of dollars,” he said.

“I am not going to act on the say so of Labor Senator Doug Cameron that it will be in the amendment – it needs to be clear and present. As such, I can’t support the amendment as it is.”

The Bill itself states that the changes are prospective in nature, but Christensen has said that Bill as it stands lacks clarity.

Uncertainty over the future of the cuts was sparked on Friday after the Senate voted to prioritise debate on the Fair Work Amendment (Repeal of 4 Yearly Reviews and Other Measures) Bill with an eye on adding an amendment that would overturn the Fair Work Commission’s penalty rate cuts.

The Senate then passed the Bill with the amendment on Monday morning, effectively putting the ball in Christensen’s court. However it is unlikely that Labor will be able to muster the numbers to pass the amendment without his support.